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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 23 Drue Tranquill, rover

Notre Dame v Syracuse

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 01: Ervin Philips #3 of the Syracuse Orange carries the ball as Drue Tranquill #23 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish defends at MetLife Stadium on October 1, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-2, 230 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Senior with two years of eligibility remaining including the 2017 season. Tranquill is eligible for a fifth year because his season-ending injury in 2015 occurred in only the third game of the year, making that season eligible for a medical redshirt by NCAA standards.
Depth chart: Tranquill will take the majority of the snaps at the rover position, the preferred wrinkle of new defensive coordinator Mike Elko’s scheme. Despite that status, it is possible Tranquill does not start against Temple in 55 days. Irish coach Brian Kelly has indicated the defense may utilize junior Asmar Bilal’s size against the Owls and other run-dominant opponents in the season’s first month.
Recruiting: Tranquill flipped his commitment from Purdue to Notre Dame after Kelly assured him the three-star prospect would have a chance at playing safety in South Bend. The No. 32 safety in the country and No. 6 recruit in Indiana, per Rivals, Tranquill also held offers from the likes of Penn State, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Two season-ending ACL tears may be the most notable moments of Tranquill’s career, but he did make it through 2016 unscathed, starting all 12 games while making 79 tackles, good for second on the team behind now-senior linebacker Nyles Morgan.

2014: 11 games, three starts, 33 tackles, one tackle for loss, ½ sack, one forced fumble, one blocked punt, one interception v. Louisville, one interception celebration resulting in a fluke knee injury.
2015: three games, nine tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one knee injury following an end zone pass breakup against Georgia Tech.
2016: 12 games, 12 starts, 79 tackles, two tackles for loss, one interception.

As the spring progressed and a better understanding of Elko’s rover was gained, it was clear Tranquill both fits the position and enjoys it.

“I love the rover position,” he said following the Blue-Gold Game. “It’s a versatile position that allows you to come off the edge, allows you to play the run, play the pass and do a lot of different things.”

Kelly had a similar sentiment following Tranquill’s four-tackle, two-tackles for loss performance.

“It’s been a good fit all spring,” Kelly said. “He’s a plus player there for us. He can really impact what’s happening from snap to snap. He’s a physical player and playing low to the ball is really where he can do a lot of really good things for us.”

If he can stay healthy, I expect Tranquill to be one of the most productive players on the Irish defense Think of him as a super-sized version of Matthias Farley from 2014. He will fill up the stat sheet.

“Knock on wood that he stays healthy, because if he does I expect Tranquill to be the most productive safety of [former defensive coordinator Brian] VanGorder era at Notre Dame. He’s going to be one of the team’s leading tackler[s] in front of and behind the line of scrimmage.

“Does that mean he’ll be great in coverage? No. But if he’s able to wreak havoc as a guy running the alley and crashing towards the line of scrimmage, he’s got a chance to be a real difference maker.”

It is worth noting a piece of what Keith predicted for Tranquill’s career back in the 2014 A-to-Z entry, a very prescient prediction: “… the Irish landed a unique athlete that’ll start his career at safety but looks to have the ability to grow into a linebacker.”

Tranquill’s greatest struggles as a safety came in covering deep. For all his athletic traits — strong, solidly built, quick first step — he is not exceptionally fleet of foot. At rover, that should not be as much of a concern, at least not in theory.

The rover won’t be covering deep. It should be as simple as that. Sure, an occasional unexpected go route here or there is always possible, but by and large, Tranquill will have two safeties behind him providing both support and speed, rather than him being one of those two safeties.

One has to wonder what consequence follows removing that concern from Tranquill’s mind. Already an instinctual player, he should have no encumbrance remaining as he flies to the ball. Lining him up next to Morgan will put two physical, proven tacklers in the middle of the defense. If nothing else, it will be intriguing to see which finishes the season as the Irish leading tackler, a title without reward but a notable one, nonetheless.

Tranquill is in position to be a two-time captain for Notre Dame, with him one of six already for this coming season. That will presumably be true whether the rover position fits him as well as expected or not. The Indiana native has worked through two season-ending knee injuries/surgeries without ever complaining, remaining a valued locker room presence throughout. Some may write that off as mindless praises, but it is more than that, and it is certainly viable claim to a captainship.

On the field, 2018 should bring more of 2017 from Tranquill, presuming health, as one always has to when looking at a player with Tranquill’s injury past.

2017’s Notre Dame 99-to-2
Friday at 4: Goodbye A-to-Z, hello 99-to-2 (May 12)
No. 99: Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle
No. 98: Andrew Trumbetti, defensive end
No. 97: Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle
No. 96: Pete Mokwuah, defensive tackle
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 92)
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 95)
No. 93: Jay Hayes, defensive end
No. 92: Jonathon MacCollister; defensive end (originally theorized as No. 46)
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver (originally theorized as No. 84)
No. 86: Alizé Mack, tight end
No. 85: Tyler Newsome, punter
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end (originally theorized as No. 90)
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 82: Nic Weishar, tight end
No. 81: Miles Boykin, receiver
No. 80: Durham Smythe, tight end
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right tackle
No. 77: Brandon Tiassum, defensive tackle
No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive lineman (originally theorized as No. 65)
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 73)
No. 75: Daniel Cage, defensive tackle
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, right tackle
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle
No. 71: Alex Bars, offensive lineman
No. 70: Hunter Bivin, offensive lineman
No. 69: Aaron Banks, offensive lineman
No. 68: Mike McGlinchey, left tackle
No. 67: Jimmy Byrne, offensive lineman
No. 58: Elijah Taylor, defensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, offensive lineman
No. 56: Quenton Nelson, left guard
No. 55: Jonathan Bonner, defensive lineman
No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
No. 53: Sam Mustipher, center
No. 53: Khalid Kareem, defensive lineman
No. 48: Greer Martini, inside linebacker
No. 47: Kofi Wardlow, defensive end
No. 45: Jonathan Jones, inside linebacker
No. 44: Jamir Jones, linebacker/defensive lineman
No. 42: Julian Okwara, defensive end
No. 41: Kurt Hinish, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 94)
No. 40: Drew White, linebacker
No. 39: Jonathan Doerer, kicker (originally theorized as No. 52)
No. 38: Deon McIntosh, running back/receiver
No. 35: David Adams, linebacker
No. 34: Tony Jones, Jr., running back
No. 33: Josh Adams, running back
No. 32: D.J. Morgan, safety
No. 30: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, rover
No. 29: Kevin Stepherson, receiver
No. 28: Nicco Fertitta, safety
No. 27: Julian Love, cornerback
No. 26: Ashton White, safety
No. 25: Jafar Armstrong, receiver (originally theorized as No. 87)
No. 24: Nick Coleman, safety

No. 66: Tristen Hoge, offensive lineman, transfers to BYU
No. 50: Parker Boudreaux, offensive lineman
No. 30: Josh Barajas, linebacker, to transfer to Illinois State

No. 13: Tyler Luatua, tight end, career ended by medical hardship